Mariners win seventh straight behind Walker's three-hitter

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[September 14, 2016]  ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Behind Taijuan Walker's first career shutout and three Seattle homers the Mariners beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-0 for their season-high seventh straight win on Tuesday.

Walker (6-10) was sensational, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 batters to match a career high in winning his second straight start.

The Angels' first hit came when Kole Calhoun found a hole on the right side, through the Mariners' shift, for a clean single to lead off the seventh. The Angels' first base runner came in the sixth when Kaleb Cowart reached on Ketel Marte's two-out throwing error.

Despite prevailing for the eighth time in nine games, the Mariners couldn't gain ground on the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card race, remaining 2 1/2 games behind.

Seattle flexed its muscles, with Nelson Cruz notching three hits and Norichika Aoki and Seth Smith hitting home runs. Smith's was the biggest blow, a grand slam in the sixth inning that turned the game into a rout.

Many thought Walker's path this year would lead to being Seattle's No. 2 starter behind ace Felix Hernandez. But Walker struggled with command issues and was hurt. He reached rock bottom when last facing the Angels on Sept. 3; he was charged with six runs (five earned) in recording but two outs when losing his fourth consecutive start.

But Walker was far from that struggling pitcher on Tuesday as he toyed with the Angels.

Alex Meyer (0-3), who was making his second start for the Angels, didn't fare nearly as well. He was gone after four innings after surrendering four runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three.

Walker, utilizing a fastball in the upper-90s, was dominant in the game's early stages as he retired the first 15 batters and had a stretch of five straight strikeouts.

The right-hander recorded seven strikeouts through five innings; he fanned Mike Trout twice, illustrating Walker's effectiveness. Coming into the game, Trout was hitting .818 (nine of 11) with two home runs against Walker.

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Mariners pitcher starting Taijuan Walker (44) pitches during the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners struck quickly with two first-inning runs.

Aoki opened with a sharp single and scored on Cruz's two-run homer, his team-high 36th homer of the season. Cruz crushed Meyer's 93 mph fastball deep into the left-field seats.

Seattle extended its lead to 4-0 in the second as the long ball bit Meyer once again. This time Aoki, with his second hit, did the honors with a solo blast. Prior to Aoki's third homer on the year, Marte had a run-scoring fly ball to bring in Leonys Martin, who reached on a single.

Meyer got through the third inning without allowing a run for his first scoreless frame in the game. But it required a two-out leaping catch by Trout in center as he robbed Mike Zunino of an extra-base hit with Cruz aboard on a walk.

NOTES: Seattle 1B Daniel Vogelbach got his first start in the majors. ... Mariners 1B Adam Lind (sprained finger) is hoping to be available for the weekend series against the Houston Astros. ... LHP Wade LeBlanc, who started eight games before ending the season in Triple-A, was traded from Seattle to the Pittsburgh Pirates. ... Angels SS Andrelton Simmons (bruised thumb) remains out after tests revealed no serious damage. ... C Geovany Soto (sore knee) was close to being activated, but he sprained his ankle on Monday.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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